Frank Zappa: Felt Forum
By Dennis Horgan
As Frank Zappa's new version of the Mothers took the stage some 45 minutes late, they were warmly greeted by a boisterous and enthusiastic audience. The reception became more than warm as a red jump suited Zappa strode to mid-stage, introduced the band, and then himself as "your old pal, Frankie." As it turned out, the wait was well worth it as the audience was treated to two hours of Zappa Music, old and new, plus a healthy dose of the famous Zappa humor.
I couldn't catch the names of all the band members, but the new lineup consisted of bass, drums, second guitar, keyboards, and a female vocalist. The music itself was more basic r&b rock oriented than was expected. Though more funky and basic than some of his previous bands, this group of Mothers are no stiffs either as everybody in the band got a chance to show their chops, and all were impressive. Zappa threw in plenty of his own "el speedo" guitar solos, and the contrast between his and the more blues-based style of second guitarist Ray White was interesting and effective.
Zappa also used a variety of props for humorous effect, like a large fake foot, which he used during "Stinkfoot," and a stuffed poodle which he used to pantomime several forms of sexual perversion at various points in the show. The audience loved it and so apparently did Zappa, who seemed to be almost in a jovial mood. Crusty and old Frank, believe it or not, even went so far as to shake hands with a couple of members of the audience near the front of the stage.
A larger portion of the show was devoted to material from the new Mothers album, Zoot Allures, and included such titles as, I think, "You're gonna wind up working in a gas station," a song which Zappa said was about higher education, "[Manx] Needs Women," which had a funny bit about selling your soul for "beer and tits", and something called "Black Napkins." All of the numbers contained long instrumental passages, which showcased the various members of the band, who were in turn rewarded by a great audience response for their efforts.
Some of the more familiar material included the show-opening "Stinkfoot," "Dirty Love," and a gospelized "You didn't try to call me," all performed with gusto and humor. The audience was in good humor and wildly appreciative all throughout the show and were rewarded with a great encore medley of "Stranded in the Jungle," "What's a girl like you doing in a Place like This" and "Dynamo Hum." All in all, it was a fine performance by the one and only Frank Zappa. As I walked out of the hall, I looked around and noticed a lot of smiling faces for a change. It's about time.
Note. Zappa had three concerts in 1976 in Felt Forum, New York. One in October 30 and two in 31, 1976. This article seems to review the October 30 show. (see also FZshows)
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